I suspect the T1s are rather low distortion devices. They comes across as having an overall smooth and fine-grained character. Instruments just seem more “of a piece” and less made up of bits than they do on many other headphones.
I was originally concerned that this fine-grained character led to a somewhat dull sound. But after listening to more recordings, that doesn’t seem to be the case. I might say that the T1s don’t sound as lively as some other headphones, but the sound of each of these more lively headphones may eventually lead you to conclude that their desirable liveliness is in part attributable to a coloration (or two).
The Beyerdynamic T1s sound different from most of the other high-end headphones we’ve had in the lab recently (mainly the Sennheiser HD800, the Ultrasone Edition 8, the Audio-Technica ATH-W5000, the Grado PS1000, and the AKG 702). I suspect the T1s may be something special because they seem to combine the strengths of many of these very good models. The T1s seem to be quite balanced, like the Ultrasones or the Sennheisers. They seem to be low in coloration like the AKGs and the Ultrasones. They seem very transparent, like the Audio Technicas and Grados. And they seem to have wide bandwidth, like the Denons and the Sennheisers. It is too early in the review process to take the observations as conclusions, but at this stage I have to say the Beyerdynamic T1s have promise.
Since there are winning musical attributes of each of these models, it is worth remembering how far we are from reproducing the absolute sound via headphones. For example, you have to remember that there is no common agreement among headphone engineers on what constitutes flat frequency response as perceived by the listener. This leads to widely varying frequency response curves among models designed by competent engineers. Such a situation doesn’t exist in, say, the field of amplifier design. But every time we write about the resulting deviations from the sound of live music, several readers write in horror that “for this price, these should be perfect!” I suppose lots of things should be perfect, but they aren’t in practice, and that’s certainly true of headphones. And to give credit where credit is due, high-end headphones cost about what a pair of basic speakers cost. They key point is that, given inevitable deviations from perfection in any real product, the listener has to judge what combination of attributes gives the best approximation of live music.
I have enjoyed the Beyerdynamic T1s immensely in our testing so far. Your results may vary. Watch for our full-length review in next month’s AVguide/Playback email newsletter.